Friday, August 30, 2019

Can Mets Experience Another Jolt Up In Their Roller Coaster Ride Of A Season?

Citi Field after Thursday night's Mets loss to the Cubs. Photo by Jason Schott.

The thing about roller coasters is that, as quick as they go up, they come down even faster. That saying is especially true when applied to the 2019 Mets.

The Mets, as always started off well, then tailed off a little and still had a winning record on Memorial Day.

They then swooned in June and early July, and found themselves 11 under .500 on July 12.

The Mets then went on an inspiring run, in which they went 27-10, which was capped by a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians on August 22.

Their record that night was 67-60, a season-high seven-games over .500, just 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the second Wild Card spot and three behind Washington for the top Wild Card.

This was the start of a nine-game homestand, with the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs coming in for three each, and instead of playing themselves back into the Division race, they might have played themselves out of contention. 

The Braves swept the Mets to leave them 12 games out in the National League East Division race on Sunday, and the Cubs, who were bypassed by St. Louis, have a five-game lead over them for the second Wild Card. Washington leads the Mets by 7 1/2 games for the top Wild Card.

So, to recap, a week ago - at the top of the rollercoaster - the Mets were in contention for both Wild Card spots and an outside chance at the Division crown, and now - after a great drop on the rollercoaster - they only are playing for the second Wild Card.

On Friday, they embark on a 16-game stretch against other contending teams, starting with a six-game road trip with three in Philadelphia and three in Washington, followed by a ten-game homestand with three against Philadelphia, four against Arizona, and three against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

By comparison, the 16 games they played after they fell to 40-51 on July 12 went as follows: two in Miami, two in Minnesota, four in San Francisco, three vs. San Diego, three against Pittsburgh, and two at the Chicago White Sox - the only team with a winning record was Minnesota.

In those 16 games, the Mets went 12-4 - if the Mets do that in this upcoming stretch, then they certainly could be back in a Wild Card spot and would have earned it without question.

"We still have faith in ourselves," Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said after the Mets' 4-1 loss to the Cubs, their sixth in a row, Thursday night. "We still have faith in this team that we're going to get the job done."

On if it's harder to have a setback now after they worked so hard the past six weeks to get themselves into contention, Callaway said. "No, no, no, I mean, you work hard for a reason, and you can always take pride that you've worked hard. It's a tough six games, but it's no more deflating than a normal loss, and we'll continue to battle - that's what this team does."

When the Mets fell into that deep hole in July, Callaway alluded to that they needed a "miracle" to get back into it, so he was asked if he feels a similar way now.

"I think that, like I've said all along, we've got to continue to grind it out. These guys can do something special. I know they believe that - they show it every day, even when we lose - they don't give up. I definitely believe it, I know our front office believes it, and the 40,000 fans out there, I think they believe it, too. So, we're going to continue to push and push and push until the end, and see where we're coming up."

On if their winning ways, where it felt like they were coming back every night turned with their 14-inning loss to Atlanta last Friday, in which they couldn't get that big hit late, Callaway said, "I haven't really thought of it like that. I just feel like, you lose that game that day. That's kind of how I look at every game, and you try to improve on what you didn't do well. 

"Things have snowballed. Six in a row, that's a big snowball. We have to start tomorrow (Friday in Philadelphia) and get a win, start the snowball in the opposite direction."

Callaway is a very even-keeled manager in the sense that he never gets too high or too low, and certainly never shows any signs of panic.

When he was asked when he will sense they need to pick up their urgency, he said, "I don't think we'll ever give up, right. There's going to be a time where, if you get to it, you're mathematically out of it, and the day before that will be the one where, it's win or you're out, and I think that, you know, taking the approach that we've taken is the right way to do it.

"You're going to give yourself a better chance to do what you want to do if you can stay pretty level-headed and understand, yes, this is a big game, but we have to go out there, relax and play the game like it's another game, and every game's important to us. 

"There will be a time, but I think it will be that one if we're mathematically going to be eliminated if we lose it. Until then, hey, we have a chance. We're never going to give up.

"I think you guys understand I'm pretty optimistic, and I feel like we're going to do something special, and I've always felt like that the whole year, and I'll continue to feel like that until there's no more season left or we're eliminated, and then we'll continue to try to improve if that happens."

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